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Wednesday, July 25, 2018

Eating For Cheap On Vacation

If you've been reading my blog for any length of time, you know that I love to eat and it can be one of the best things about traveling. I will plan whole days around places I want to eat, but I also plan ahead to save money on food before I leave, so I can afford to splurge on a few meals and also eat more often than usual, since I am always hungry when out in the fresh air. 

If you’re like me and want to eat all day long, you’re going to need some tips on how to do it inexpensively, so at least you don’t go broke doing it. Here are just a few of the rules I follow to get the best bargains and keep my wallet from emptying out by the end of the first day.

Bring snacks

Trick your stomach by bringing snacks with you in your bag each day. This way, if you’re tempted to nibble on something, you know you have them on you and are less likely to spend money on food you don’t really need.

Eat where the locals eat

Just by avoiding touristy areas, you can save a lot on your meals. When you’re out, ask a few people where they recommend. They aren’t going to tell you they prefer a chain restaurant over their favorite local pub. The food is likely more authentic than those that you can find right near tourist attractions, making it cheaper, because it’s local and not shipped in from a different country.

Make lunch your main meal

If you really want to try one of the “hip” restaurants by a celebrity chef, make reservations for lunch. The food will be just as good, but it’s usually much cheaper at lunch than at dinner.

Hit up the food carts

Food carts can have a huge variety of different local and international foods, but can be half the price of (or less) than dining at a sit-down restaurant. With this kind of savings, you can try fare from several carts with no regrets.

Rent a vacation home or stay in a hotel with a kitchen(ette)

This is my favorite way to stretch my food budget, because there are so many options. Renting can be a great value over hotel stays if you’ll be visiting for a week or more, plus it gives you the chance to check out the local grocery store. I am not a big breakfast person, so instead of eating out for that meal, I shop for new cereals and pastries that I can’t get at home. There’s never a better time to try new foods! 

Stay at a hotel that offers free breakfast

You don’t realize how much dining out can cost until you go on vacation. A reasonable breakfast can cost between $8-15 per person. If you multiply that by the number of people you’re traveling with and the number of days you’ll be staying, that number can be huge. If you find a hotel in your price range that offers free breakfast, you’ve hit a jackpot of savings.

Sign up for Groupon (or other daily deal sites)

Groupon.com is an amazing little site that offers daily deals on a wide assortment of things, not least of which is dining. Each day a new offer goes up at a big discount off the regular price. Dining certificates can be purchased quite often and many times I have gotten a half-off gift certificate to a new local restaurant or one just trying to bring in new customers. It works! Sign up at Groupon for the destination of your next vacation (they cover many international locations as well as the United States) and eat for less!

photo credit

Don’t order off the kids’ menu

If you travel with children, you’ll notice that all kids’ menus seem to have the same small rotation of foods. Obviously, little ones don’t just live on hot dogs, pizza, chicken nuggets and PB&J sandwiches. Not only do they charge an outrageous amount for these “staples” that cost hardly anything to make, but they offer hardly any nutritional value and your kids are likely to eat only half of it before declaring they’re full. Instead, order a meal that you both will eat and share. This saves you money and might get them to eat a vegetable or two.

Split your meals

Because I want to eat all day, and everything looks awesome, we often split meals, so we aren't super full, but also so we can sample a little bit more during the day. I find that most restaurants serve at least twice as much food as you should eat anyway. You might also want to just order a few different appetizers to share. This works even better if you're a little too hungry for only half a meal and the restaurant offers free bread you can fill up a bit on.

If you travel with children, having them split a main meal, instead of spending practically the same amount each on two (or more) children's menu that is the same thing you could eat at home or down the street at a fast food restaurant.

This is just a small list of things you can do to help stretch your food budget on your future trips, but they can save you quite a bit, as they have me and my family on our travels. Remember, the more money you save on meals, the more money you can spend on doing something else!

How do you save money on dining out when you travel?

Saturday, July 21, 2018

There's No Time Like the Present to Find All Your Old Friends

Have you ever wondered what became of your old friends from high school? Are you curious about what kind of lives they are living now? Maybe you had a crush on a certain girl or boy and you are curious as to what became of them. You can live forever not knowing if your hunch about them was correct or not. But there is a much easier way to live your life with peace of mind. You can use the brand new online MA white pages to get back in touch with them. It's easy to use this new system to find a whole slew of people whom you may have lost touch with over the years. 
The New Online White Pages Lets You Reconnect With Old Friends

Are you still wondering what happened to your cousin after their parents divorced and they moved away? You may have been the best of friends until circumstances intervened to separate the two of you. But you ought to take note that this separation may not be as permanent as you once believed. The brand new Intelius system allows you to quickly reconnect with all sorts of people that you may have lost touch with. Before you know it, you can be laughing and smiling again and sharing cherished memories with your favorite cousin. The new online white pages really can make it happen. 

Photo by Helena Lopes on Unsplash

If You Want to Share Joy With a Friend, Let Them Hear from You 

If you would really like to give someone an amazing birthday or Christmas present, why not give them the gift of you? You can use the new online white pages to send a message of love to a cherished friend or relative who has not heard from you in far too long. It's the perfect way to reconnect with friends and family members who would love nothing more than to hear your voice again. If you would love nothing more than to plan the ultimate family reunion, using the new online white pages is the perfect way to make it happen. It's up to you to take the first step by using the system.
If You are Ready to Reconnect, We are Ready to Make it Happen

So if you are in the mood to reconnect with an old friend or family member, log on to the web today. All you have to do is go to the MA online white pages site to get started on finding that person you long to get back in touch with. The system is easy to use. You'll be amazed at the friends you can find there.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Plan a Trip to Reconnect

Now that you've contacted those friends you've been missing and caught up, why not plan a trip out to see them in person? It's a great way to learn about new destinations from a local and meet up with your old friend(s) at the same time! They'll know all the great ways to make your trip affordable and tell you about all the city's hidden gems.

Wednesday, July 18, 2018

Should You Get Insurance for Your Trip?

Twice in the last year my travel plans have changed after I'd already booked everything and I've not had travel insurance. Luckily, we didn't lose all that much, but on our next big trip, insurance is happening, because it's not that much and it would be really helpful to have that...um...insurance when things happen. 

Do you get insurance when you travel? Need more tips for how and why to do it? Check out my post.

When is the last time you wished you had travel insurance and didn't? 

Saturday, July 14, 2018

Get the Best Car Rental Rates

I rent a lot of cars. When I can't just walk around my destination or want to go further out than public transportation will take me, I will generally rent a car. My trip to Anaheim is coming up and I am flying into LAX and visiting Universal Studios as well, so taking an Uber or airport shuttle didn't seem feasible...until I started looking at rental car rates.

I didn't give up though, because I knew I could find a decent rate if I just looked hard enough. Here are my best tips and then I'll leave my last tip and how I got over half off for the end:

Keep looking up until the day before you leave

Usually when you make a car reservation, you don't have to pay ahead and you don't have any cancellation penalties, so don't quit looking for a better deal, because rental rates fluctuate wildly and generally make no sense, so you may find something crazy cheap closer to your travel date. 

Rent the smallest car you can

The bigger the car, the more it will cost you. Unless you have a free upgrade code, book the smallest car you can comfortably fit in. I always go for economy, because I like to be able to park everywhere, but also, rental companies can't downgrade you when you arrive for pickup. So, if you change your mind, it's too bad. If you show up and your category of car isn't available, they have to upgrade you for free. I've often gotten bigger cars, just because I showed up before people had returned their rentals. 

Rent from off-airport locations

Airports impose fees on merchants who are on property and those companies usually pass those fees on to the customer. Why else do you think a bottle of water costs $8? This can be hefty when it comes to rental cars, because they cost a whole lot more than beverages. Depending on where you go, this can be a few cents per day or tens of dollars per day. If you rent your car off-site, you can save yourself these excess fees. Make sure you compare rates and make sure you aren't losing money in the long run between transportation to/from off-site rental companies.

Shop around

Not all rental companies are created equal. One company may be outrageous, while another one in the same location is affordable. There doesn't seem to be a rhyme or reason regarding rental rates, so look at all your options first.

Pay in full ahead of time

If you do this, you will probably have a bit of a harder time cancelling if you need to, but you can still do it. I've seen rates as much as $100 cheaper if you pay ahead of time, which is crazy. It can really help you stay on budget doing it this way. 

Skip the second driver

There was a time when most car rental companies didn't charge you for a second driver. If you can avoid it, only rent under one person's name and save $11 or more per day on your rate. 

Use your own insurance

Car companies charge outrageous prices for their insurance. They'll tell you that you should take it and it'll protect you from all sorts of nonsense that almost never happens, but it also ends up being $15 or more per day. That's over $100 on a weekly rental. Check your insurance, or even your credit card that you used to reserve you car, and you are usually always covered between the two. 

Sign up for rewards

Join the rewards program for car rental companies and you may just get an exclusive deal that you'd have otherwise found. It won't always pertain to you, but when it does, you'll be excited and may save big. If nothing else, you may end up with special treatment that saves you time, like I do with Budget (skip the check-in line and go directly to pick-up).

Rent for a whole week

This may seem counter-intuitive for saving money, but most rental companies give price breaks for week-long rentals instead of individual days. Check to see if there are penalties for bringing your car back early. If not, this is the way to go! 

Of course, some companies will charge you the weekly rate for partial weeks as well, so then you don't save anything. I ran into that with my rental for LA. They wanted $340 for a 4 1/2 day rental.

Use the sharing community

There are some really great sharing services for cars, which is like using Airbnb, but for vehicles. Rates are much cheaper because you aren't getting a new car and the owners are looking for extra money instead of running a full-on business. I worked with Turo in the past and have been trying to use them, but haven't had the chance. I checked them this time, found a great car at a great price that included enough free miles to carry my whole back and forth for my trip and included free delivery to the airport.  

I requested the booking and was charged as soon as it was confirmed. How much did this cost me? $164. That's almost $180 in savings! I have my own insurance, but Turo's cars are also insuranced through Liberty Mutual, so I'm covered in case anything unforeseen happens.

Now you know where to look for great deals, go forth and drive around your destination! 

What's the best deal you've ever gotten on a rental car?

Friday, July 13, 2018

Get 300 bonus SB when you sign up for Swagbucks in July

All throughout July you can earn large bonuses when sign up as my referral on Swagbucks. Swagbucks is a rewards site where you earn points (called SB) for things you're probably doing online already, like searching the web, watching videos, shopping, discovering deals, and taking surveys. Then you take those points and exchange them for gift cards to places like Amazon, Target, or PayPal cash. 

When you sign up through me this month, you can earn a 300 SB bonus! Here's how: 

1. Sign up using this link 

2. Earn 300 SB total before August 1st, 2018. You'll get a 300 SB bonus for it! 

3. That's it. It's super easy, and Swagbucks is for real. I use it myself, and I've earned hundreds of dollars in Amazon gift cards, which I use for everyday stuff that I want and then save actual money for my vacations.

Disclaimer: When you click on the link in this post, I receive SB in compensation.

Wednesday, July 11, 2018

30 Travel Things

So, I've been watching too much Disney Channel while home on my own and I'm loving the "30 Things" shorts where characters talk about their top 30 things in life. Well, I have decided that now's the time to add my own, but with a travel twist. Let's talk about our favorite travel things, places and accessories. I'll go first. Here are my 30 Travel Things:

1. Suggestions from locals
2. New experiences
3. Local foods
4. Coffee
7. Open-air markets
8. Carry-on bags
9. Free wi-fi 

12. Free activities
14. Exit row seats
15. Lazy river
16. Sunscreen & sunglasses
19. Snacks
20. Walking

21. Fancy desserts
22. TripIt app
24. Free museums
26. Packable jackets
28. Being so tired you fall asleep immediately
29. Aquariums
30. Live music

I'm sure these will change over the years, but for now, these are my favorite 30 things. It's what I'm all about right now and I can't wait to travel more and see how those trips change my likes and loves. 

What are some of your travel "things"? 

Disclaimer: This post contains some affiliate links and if you purchase through those links, I will receive monetary compensation.

Saturday, July 7, 2018

Tips for Exercising On Vacation

I don't exercise much, but I do try to keep in shape by eating right and parking further from the store to walk more and taking the stairs. When on vacation it's hard to eat healthfully, so I look for ways to burn more calories when I'm out and about...and eat make the effort to order vegetables. 

vacation exercise tips

Walk Whenever Possible

Instead of driving or taking public transit, try walking. Some destinations are more walkable than others, but you can easily walk 4-10 miles in a day (or more if you're going to a theme park) without even noticing. Look at your map and see how far your destination is for the day (maybe plan some things that are close to each other) and strap on our walking shoes if they are doable. At a slow pace, you can walk a mile in 15 minutes, which isn't that long or that far. Of course, if you're like me, you're more likely to want to walk in the morning when your feet are fresh, so give yourself some motivation to get up and stretch your legs. You can take the subway later in the day. You may face lots of stairs with this option, too. 

Besides the obvious benefits of walking, you will be able to slow down and see more of your destination, possibly finding some hidden gems along the way. We saw a really good portion of London by just wandering around. Just remember to stay aware of where you are and what's around you to stay safe. 

Get Up Early and Use the Gym

Lots of hotels we've stayed in have had workout rooms that are free for all to use. Now we stay in vacation rentals or timeshares, but many of them have gyms included as well. The same goes for cruise ships. Now, I find that I never actually make it to the gym, even though I say I will, but if I made more of an effort, I would at least make it down to get on the elliptical for a bit. If you're on a business trip, this may be the only exercise you get, so make sure to pack suitable clothes. My pajamas are generally a pair of running shorts and t-shirt, so I am set.

Or  Exercise in Your Room

This is easier to do when you have a vacation rental or a suite, where there is actual room for you to move around, but even if you only have a little free space and a chair, you can get in some extra calorie-burning:
  • Chair crunches - I love the fact that if you have a chair, you pretty much have a low-impact gym. Sit on the edge and pull legs up or do the bicycle or other ab exercises like these
  • Work your triceps - These also use a chair, though you can use anything flat and sturdy. At home, I use my coffee table, but you can also use a park bench. 
  • Planks - Work your core! They hurt, but I assume when I see results, they will be all worth it!
  • Squats - Work your butt. You can do these outside, too, but people might you funny looks. If you want to get more advanced, go find yourself a bench and do some step-ups.
  • Calf raises - Do these anywhere, like brushing your teeth, watching the news or waiting in line to get into the Louvre.
  • Arm curls - You can do these just about everywhere. Buy a couple of water bottles and use them as make-shift weights. If these aren't doing the trick and you don't have anything heavier around that could work, check out these traveling dumbbells called AquaBells that you fill with water for your workouts. 
  • Resist! Pack a resistance band (or set) in your carry-on and do more strenuous workouts in the time you have available. There are also these fancy loop bands you can use to strengthen your legs/thighs 

Get In the Pool

Eric prefers to get his extra workout in the form of swimming. If there's a pool, he's going to get in it and do some laps. I'm not a swimmer, but I'll come sit for moral support. Usually, this is when I do laundry. Lugging a laundry basket to and from my room counts as exercise, right?

Rent a Bike

The only thing better than walking your destination is getting around by bike. Lots of destinations now have city bikes you can rent by the hour or the day. See the city in a totally different way by riding around and moving those legs. Bonus is that many of them have baskets, so you have a place to put purchases and/or your day bag. 

Drink More Water

This isn't strictly helpful in exercising, but it will give you more energy if you stay hydrated, meaning you won't want to just be a lump (anymore than usual) when you could be exploring the city on foot or checking out another museum. It also helps if you don't overeat. If you're hungry, but not starving, remember that most places will serve you at least 1.5 times as much as you should eat. Sharing a plate is a way to satisfy your hunger without loading you down with carbs and other foods, so you won't feel like a nap in the middle of the day and drag, because walking is more beneficial when you do it at a brisk pace.

Do you exercise when you travel? What's your favorite way to burn all those calories you ingested over the course of each day?

Friday, July 6, 2018

The July Swago Board is here!

The digital rewards site Swagbucks is offering big payouts during on their July Swago Board, which runs from July 9th through July 16th at 9am PT! Swago is just like bingo, but in this case you're filling out squares as you earn points on their site for doing things you already do online. If you're thinking of trying Swagbucks, this is a great chance to learn all about how the site works and earn bonus points while doing it, meaning you can get more gift cards faster. 

Here are a few tips:
  • Each square on your Swago Board will contain an action item to complete. They can be anything from getting a search win, completing a survey, or just visiting one of our popular stores! 
  • Once you complete the action item in a particular square the square will change color signifying the action item is complete. 
  • You have until 12pm PT/3pm ET on Monday, July 16th to mark off as many squares as possible so use your time wisely. 
  • Be mindful of the patterns and their corresponding bonuses located on the right of your Swago Board. The patterns will vary in difficulty and bonus value. Once you’ve achieved a pattern, the corresponding “Submit” button will light up. You can have multiple patterns available for submission, however, you can only submit ONE pattern so choose wisely. 

  • Each activity you successfully complete on your Swago Board will give you anywhere from 1-20 spins on the Spin & Win Wheel. PLUS, when you submit your board for a bonus you'll get additional spins. The number of spins will depend on the pattern you complete. The wheel has all sorts of great prizes that you can win, and each spin is a winner!
The Spin & Win Wheel will be available all throughout Swago and you have until 11:59pm PT on Monday, July 16th to use all your spins. 

Fill up your board and then submit your pattern to get even more points - if you can fill in the whole board, you get a 500 SB bonus, which is enough for a $5 gift card from the retailer of your choice.  

Click here right now and click "Join" to get started! If you don't already have a Swagbucks account, you'll be able to quickly sign up; PLUS, if you earn 300 SB before the first of August, you'll get a bonus 300 SB!

Disclaimer: When you click through the link on this post, I receive SB in compensation.

Wednesday, July 4, 2018

Happy Fourth of July!

I'm taking a break for celebrations today. If you're home today instead of out watching fireworks displays or on vacation, I've got a few pics for you and some tips as well from fellow bloggers and awesome websites. Have a happy Fourth of July!

In case you missed my post on Facebook for taking awesome photos of fireworks, you can view the post on Techlicious and learn some tips on using your phone, and also your camera, to take amazing fireworks shots this year. I'll be using these when I'm at the theme parks next month, and hopefully they'll turn out better than the photos on this post. Fingers crossed!

Some places are just known for their awesome fireworks displays with even more oohs and aahs than you're used to. USA Today has a list of the top 10 shows. 

It's not just America that has huge fireworks displays. It may not be the 4th everywhere else, but they have other reasons to celebrate with big booms. Check out Brain Jet's list of great worldwide fireworks shows that happen throughout the year.

Fourth of July celebrations aren't relegated to huge displays though. I know some of you like to have your own shows on your street in your neighborhood, so please practice safely. Here is a short list of ways to make your Fourth unforgettable for all the best reasons, instead of accidentally burning down your own house:
I'm wishing you all a safe and happy holiday. Is anyone traveling to see a phenomenal display? If so, where are you?

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